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Protective gorgets

Protective gorgets

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Protective gorgets

A darker side of the gorget was their use as protection against prejudice and discrimination. By wearing a gorget Aboriginal people could prove they were friends to the colonists as opposed to those who were considered to be wild, often termed 'myall', and in opposition to the colonists.

In the early 1920s, William Robertson was given a bronze gorget by 'an old resident of Wellington' on which was inscribed 'Oombe-Jang Watson, Missionary Stockman, Wellington Valley'. Curious about its history, he wrote to the teacher at the mission asking about 'the bad old days'. [1] The reply told Robertson that the Reverend William Watson had gorgets made for the Aboriginal people of the district in order to protect them from being killed or moved on by local settlers and police:

He knew that the dominant desire of the settlers was to get rid of the remaining natives. He also knew that a death-drive of Aboriginals by the black police was considered no worse than a present-day wallaby-drive. For these reasons he devised protective plates, on which were cut the Aboriginal's name and the station to which he belonged. These plates were hung by a chain around the Aborigines' necks, for the purpose of preventing the squatters, settlers, and police station from dispersing any straggling groups of the tribe. [2]

Oombe-Jang Watson's gorget was found in the 1870s by the Offner family who bought William Watson's home 'The Hermitage' on the Macquarie River. It was unearthed 'in a state of good preservation' when they were ploughing the land.

 

Footnotes

  1. W Robertson, ('Brin-ga'), Coo-ee Talks: a Collection of Lecturettes Upon Early experiences Among the Aborigines of Australia Delivered from a Wireless Broadcasting Station, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1928, p. 152.
  2. Robertson 1928, p. 154.